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April showers douse the Northwest, building snowpack and filling reservoirs

April, a critical month for protecting snowpack and filling reservoirs, is shaping up to be wetter than normal.
Tim Durkan Photography
April, a critical month for protecting snowpack and filling reservoirs, is shaping up to be wetter than normal.

Major April showers are dousing the Pacific Northwest, and they're bringing more than flowers. Environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp talked with weather expert Cliff Mass, who provided the latest forecast and an update on the water situation in the region following an unusually dry March.

“Today, we’ll have a little bit of a break,” Mass said early Friday, referring to the recent wet weather. “There’s some showers now, particularly in the convergence zone around Seattle. That’s going to fade out during the day and, in fact, we should hit the mid- to upper-50s.”

Then comes Saturday, which Mass says will be the worst day of the weekend. A fairly strong weather system will arrive around 7 or 8 a.m., followed by heavy winds (30-35 mph) later in the day. “Although I don’t foresee any power poles coming down," he said. "I don’t think it will be that strong.”

The stormy Saturday will be followed by another showery Sunday, Mass said, with temperatures dropping into the lower 50s for the high. People also can expect snow in the mountains, above 4,000 feet.

“Pretty typical, maybe even a little wetter-than-normal April so far,” Mass said.


While March was the second driest on record, Mass stressed that it was the second half of the month that was dry. The wetter-than-normal early April makes it “not that anomalous.”

Despite concerns about snowpack, Mass wrote in his blog that he’s unconcerned. “If we just stand back, the snowpack is about 80-90 percent of normal in much of the state except the North Cascades,” he said.

There it dropped about 65-75 percent. Still, Mass noted that snowpack is rapidly increasing with such a wet April, a month he says is critical.

Summer starts early if there is a lack of precipitation this month, Mass stressed. And if the snowpack starts to melt early, “that’s bad for business in terms of what are our resources during the summertime.”

So far, he added, it’s looking like April is wet and cool — protecting snowpack and filling reservoirs.  

Listen to the full conversation above to learn more about the importance of April showers, how those showers are tracking with El Niño patterns, and the unsually wet weather Californians have experienced.

To hear the full conversation, you can click on the "play" icon at the top of this post.

Weather with Cliff Mass airs at 9:02 a.m. Friday, right after BirdNote, and twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KNKX environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, and a popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to podcasts of Weather with Cliff Mass shows, via iTunes or Google Play.

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